I Was A Coward

As a student in a college drama class, I was chosen to direct a one-act play, The Valiant. Written in the early 1920’s by Holworthy Hall and Robert Middlemass, the play is about James Dyke, a confessed murderer who has been sentenced to die, except no one really knows who he is and from where he comes. Near the end of the play Dyke quotes a line from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: Cowards die many times before their death. The valiant tastes of death but once.

While I’ve never forgotten my directorial debut, I recalled it vividly last night and was ashamed. Ashamed for my cowardice over fifty years ago. Ashamed I didn’t have all the pertinent facts I needed to fight back against an injustice. A shame I’ve carried for fifty years.

In the late 1960’s our chapter of a national sorority attempted to pledge a Black freshman coed, who would have been an outstanding asset. However, the alum advisors overrode the decision of the collegiates, and she was not offered membership. While some of my sorority sisters were equally appalled, I wrestled with the idea of deactivating. But I didn’t. I didn’t have the cajones to do so. In short, I was a coward.

I’ve managed to somewhat suppress that awful experience until yesterday when the mailman brought the new issue of my sorority magazine. As I perused it through dinner, I encountered an article about the first Black member. OMG! The landmark event occurred 300 miles away at another Ohio college in 1966–two years prior to my experience! Had I known that then, I would have fought back. Or would I? I’ll never know.

I’ve worked really hard to overcome my cowardly ways, Whether I’ve made any inroads is up to my Judgment Day verdict. But like Caesar said to his wife, I’ve already died many times over my behavior. I ain’t no valiant.

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